First, I want to say, Thank You, for providing a place where people can come together in solidarity, as well as in solace. I “know” there are people like me out there, but it’s another thing altogether to be able to see their stories first-hand and share in their hopes for a better tomorrow.
I went back to school at the young age of 45. I had always wanted to complete my Bachelor’s and then perhaps go on to my Master’s. As a would-be social worker, I recognized the need to finish my degree so that I could advance further in my field. When I first applied to go back to school, I was not married. When I began to attend, I was (I had to wait a year for state residence requirements) and the school let me know in no uncertain terms that because my wife made more in her early retirement than allowed, I was not eligible for grants or scholarships through the school. That’s right - my wife was receiving retirement benefits from the County (retired early) and because she made over the threshold, I was told I no longer qualified for grants. To add insult to injury, I was told I could divorce my wife since we were only a year married and that I would then qualify. I was devastated, but plugged along because I needed to complete that magic degree - right?
Since I was not eligible for grants and scholarships, I had to pay out of pocket for books and other necessities, as well as parking pass, food, and so on. So I pulled out that magic credit card - they don’t tell you that you cannot consolidate that card with loans later on down the line because it’s a personal line of credit. Yay!
The two and a half years to complete my undergraduate cost 24k just in loans. I was invited to apply to my Master’s degree program by one of my professors - I was immediately accepted into the program. Without hesitation, I signed the loan docs for the Master’s program and was awarded the full loan - another 42k. Yep, just in student loans, in 4.5 years, I walked away owing 66-thousand dollars.
I graduated in 2016, just about 4 years ago, but I had to get a job in a similar field than my degree so that I could accrue hours that I could eventually apply to my license. That means, for those who know, one is hired in a menial position with little to no pay (at least not what one is worth), just so one can begin to pay bills. Last year I was finally licensed in my field (3 years later) and am now beginning to see the fruits of my labor - but it is not without some difficulty. My payments to the Great Lakes is about a third of my income just to pay down the INTEREST on my loans. To date I have paid off over $16,725.00 in interest with little to no dent in the principle. My calculated pay-off amount today is the same as it was 3 years ago when I began paying on my loans. And that does not include the money on my credit card from books and other costs.
I am now 53 and am looking at the prospect of not being able to retire until I am at least 72 - just so I can pay off my loans.
The worst part is, that had I known at the time, I could have gone to Mexico with my mother’s citizenship and gone to school for free. That’s right - Mexico offers free university education, but the USA does not. Yes, I would have to have paid for books and sundries, as well as other administrative and education costs, along with housing - but I would not have had to pay 66k for my education even with all those things! That, to me, is very sad - that a “s***-world” country can offer low to free cost education, but an alleged “first-world” country cannot (or will not).
I’m not in as bad of a situation as many stories I hear and have read, but I think of how much of that 16k I could have put back into my community in food, clothing, car repairs that have been forgone because of the student loan debt. However, am not in a position where I can just stop paying on my loans like many have done. Having my own business and a house means I have to pay to maintain my credit ratings just so I can survive in this cut-throat game of debt resolution.
Thank you, for providing an open place where people can share their stories.